How did you write a novel?

December 15, 2015

It’s the question that inevitably spills out when someone in my vicinity learns I’ve written a novel. When I follow that up with “I’ve written 2, actually,” it draws gasps and wide-eyed expressions every time. I know that sometimes the question really means ‘how did you find the time to write a novel’ and other times it means ‘exactly how did you write a novel’, looking for the secret to finishing a manuscript.

I’m only going to speak to the ‘How did you find the time to write a novel’ question right now, as the other question could be answered in novel-length by itself.

I think we can all agree that most people these days have busy lives, and that’s where the question stems from. Some are busier than others, but busy depends on your point of view. I remember having our first child and feeling like I was run ragged. After the second child came along, I looked back and wondered why we didn’t do more with all of our free time when we only had one child. The same thing happened after each of my next two children came along. My point of view changed with each child.

So, my wife and I have four children, all school age and in multiple activities. Luckily we live near their school, so that helps. On top of that, we own and run a chemical company that manufactures cleaning products specific for hard water conditions. There’s only myself and my wife, she does the books and I do the production. I make 200,000 bottles of cleaner a year, mixing the chemical, filling bottles, putting them in boxes, palletizing and shipping them. I also maintain all of the packaging line and various equipment like forklifts and pumps. Then there’s marketing, customer service, sales and everything else related to running a company. I’m the CEO and janitor.

So how did I find the time to write two novels in the past two years? As you can tell, I don’t exactly have a lot of spare time on my hands.

The truth is so easy and so hard at the same time.

I just did it.

I make it a priority on my list, right after child care and running the company.

That’s all. Simple.

Let me give you an example of a typical weekday.

Get up. Get Kids up. Make breakfast for kids. Check agendas and send kids to Mom to get dressed and ready for school.

As soon as they leave, I head for work, 10 minutes away. Work until 11:45 and come home to make lunch for the kids if my wife hasn’t already. Kids come home for lunch and leave by 12:30. I head back to work and work until 4 ish.

Evenings are usually filled with cooking, cleaning, homework, extracurricular activities, and laundry. When you are a family of 6, there’s no such thing as what a man is supposed to do and what a woman is supposed to do. You see something needs doing and you do it. End of story.

9:00 is bed time for the kids. This is the time I use to check email or surf the net, watch TV or a movie etc. Back when I set out to accomplish my goal of writing my first novel, this evening time became 2 to 4 hours of writing time every night I could. No TV, the odd Netflix movie, and I stayed away from Facebook and Twitter as much as possible. I actually got away from watching TV for so long that I rarely watch anymore, and I really don’t miss it.

There are people out there that work harder and have busier schedules than me, and yet they still accomplish their goals. Maybe you have to give up an hour of sleep each day. Maybe you have to give up something else to free up some time. Whatever it is, if you want to write a novel bad enough, you can find the time to make it happen. John Grisham was a new lawyer when he was writing his first novel and he got up at some ungodly hour like 4 am so he could write for an hour before heading in to the office and practicing law for 12 hours a day. He did this every day until he had finished.

If you haven’t freed up the time to do it, I guess you don’t want to write as much as you think. I’m not just preaching to the choir here. I’ve wanted to write a novel since my late teens, and I finally accomplished my goal at 40 years old! It wasn’t enough of a priority up to that point.

So in the end, my advice to anyone wanting to write a novel is to just do it. Sit down and write as much as you can each day. If it’s 10 words or 10,000, each word is a step closer to your goal.

I did it – so can you!

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